Tour the Entire House
Stephen Kubenka knows a thing or two about restoring and renovating old houses. In his 30 years as an architect in Austin, Texas, he has worked on dozens of homes in the city’s historic Pemberton Heights neighborhood, five in particular on the same stretch of road where Travis West and his wife, Sherri, purchased their two-story, 1937 white brick Georgian.
“No house in that area is alike,” says Kubenka. “They’re all neoclassic versions of periods such as neo-Tudor and Greek Revival, so we’re constantly channeling a different architectural period when we work there.” The Wests, who were introduced to Kubenka and builder Robert Howard through neighbors, were anxious to return their 75-year-old house to its original beauty. Its structure and original oak flooring were in great shape, but a bad addition erected in the ’60s had to go.
And with three children, the couple needed more room. The challenge, says Kubenka, was bringing the house up-to-date without compromising its integrity.
Thus, the front façade remained virtually untouched except for the addition of two discrete dormer windows on the roof. The windows allow light into a small study created in the attic for Sherri. A separate staircase was built to access a new master bedroom suite, including a covered porch, upstairs. Downstairs, a separate guest suite, study for Travis, family room and screened-in porch were added. To create a seamless transition from old to new, Kubenka and Howard took their cues from many of the architectural details in the living room, including the hand-carved moldings, pediments and original windows. “That space is a prototype of the period and really sets the tone for the entire house,” Kubenka says.
But while the architecture may be restrained Georgian, inside the Wests sought neo-glamour all the way. To give the interiors the spark she was after, Sherri looked to Dallas designer Jan Showers, whose book, Glamorous Rooms, she had been poring over. “I’ve always loved the Old Hollywood style, and I felt like it was what the house might have originally looked like inside,” says Sherri. Inspired by the living room’s existing platinum blue Venetian plaster walls, previously done by Austin interior designer Roy Materanek of RWM Design, Showers created a palette for the house comprising Sherri’s favorite colors—blue, green and cream—in pale, muted tones.
The Wests’ collection of modern art then became the backdrop for fine French antiques from a medley of periods, including Louis XVI and the 1940s, many of which Showers found during buying trips to Paris. “It’s all about the mix,” she says. “Modern art keeps rooms from looking too stodgy. I also added bronze and Lucite pieces from the ’60s and ’70s; they’re all the rage in Paris now. I get so inspired every time I go there.”
The dining room, with its striking midnight blue Venetian plaster walls and ceiling, became a dramatic cocoon with navy silk draperies trimmed in gold. To further the brightening effect, Showers selected a pale gold and cream Oushak rug and covered the chairs in platinum leather accented with gold and cream sateen. A collection of turquoise Venetian glass reflects light beautifully from atop a gleaming pale wood dining table of Showers’ own design.
Pale lavender Venetian plaster walls and yards of lavender panne velvet were the muses for the master suite, says Showers, who is known for creating bewitchingly seductive bedrooms for her clients. A custommade, quilted sateen bedspread was inspired by a photograph of Drew Barrymore lounging on a bed covered in a similar quilted spread that Sherri loved. White lacquer nightstands framing the bed are set off by a pair of 19th-century opaline lamps and two large antique soleil mirrors, all from Paris. “I can’t deny I get a big kick out of that bedroom,” says Showers. “I love glamour.”